McAuliffe’s curriculum is organized into units of study called Learning Expeditions, which are aligned to Massachusetts standards. McAuliffe teachers continuously refine curriculum to ensure alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Teachers in each grade level teach the same targets and use common instructional materials and lessons (horizontal alignment). Teachers use Standard-Target-Assessment (STA) Planners to show the scope and sequence of each Learning Expedition by identifying the standards the unit is aligned to, outlining long and short term learning targets, and methods of assessment.
Fieldwork and Experts: Scholars at McAuliffe learn from fieldwork and professional experts. During the 2014-15 school year, teachers focused on localizing fieldwork whenever possible and on students collecting data during fieldwork. In a few cases, students walked to the fieldwork sites (local stores, historical sites) in order to collect data and interview members of the community. Teachers also engaged more experts in Learning Expeditions. In one case, local emergency workers from the fire department, police department, and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency were interviewed in order to learn about the community resources when natural disasters occur in Massachusetts. Students also visited MEMA (with headquarters in Framingham.) This work will continue during 2015-16 as teams identify Learning Expeditions that could benefit from more localized fieldwork and experts.
Designing High Quality Products and Projects: Explicit project and product expectations guide students to showcase their learning in a high quality manner to an audience beyond their teacher, class, or parents. McAuliffe students work together to create field guides, note-cards, tri-fold poster presentations, and conduct performances as a means of synthesizing and sharing their learning publicly. To produce excellent work, McAuliffe students take their projects through multiple drafts and critiques. This process motivates students to revise their work and to meet the standards set forth by the teacher. During 2014-15 teachers focused on use of exemplars to help students produce high quality work. This is an important part of Learning Expeditions that the school will continue to focus on during the 2015-16 school year.
When I learned about McAuliffe, I knew it was the right place for me because of its emphasis on expeditionary learning. The fact that I am encouraged to facilitate learning experiences that involve collaborating with experts and using data from fieldwork to create authentic products for relevant audiences is what education should be about in the 21st century! I love it that I am expected to plan expeditions (exciting!) and not units (boring!).